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NOW FREE: Leading Hotels of the World scraps its $175 membership fee for good

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Leading Hotels of the World has decided to ditch the $175 annual membership fee for its Leaders Club loyalty programme.

Back in April, I covered a rare special offer from Leading Hotels of the World. It was offering free membership of Leaders Club for one year, saving you the usual $175 annual fee.

This was the first time that I have ever seen an ‘open to all’ offer of free membership for LHW. LHW must have been happy with the response because it has now announced that Leaders Club will be permanently free. Should you join?

free membership leading hotels world leaders club

If you joined back in April during the ‘special offer’, you are still better off than someone who joins today. The April offer came with 500 bonus points in Leaders Club which would usually require $500 of spending. There are no bonus points for anyone who joins now.

What is Leading Hotels of the World?

LHW is best described as a marketing consortium. It comprises over 400 luxury hotels which are independently owned and run.

Very few LHW hotels are part of chains. There are a couple of Melia properties such as Palacio De Los Duques in Madrid – we reviewed Palacio De Los Duques here – but that is about it.

LHW allows these independent hotels access to a loyalty programme, as well as a closed group of members to whom they can offer exclusive benefits.

That said, you don’t need to be a member of Leaders Club to book on the Leading Hotels of the World website.

Leaders Club is a bit like InterContinental Ambassador – if you do more than one booking via LHW each year, you would probably have come out on top by paying the $175 membership fee. You will definitely come out on top now that membership is free.

Long-term readers will remember that I rejoined in 2016 – for cash – after being bribed with a free night voucher. I used that to stay at the amazing The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel, which I reviewed here. I let my membership lapse again after that.

What are the benefits of Leading Hotels of the World membership?

You can learn about Leaders Club here.

Your free membership of Leaders Club gets you:

  • access to member rates, which can be 20% below published rates
  • an annual upgrade voucher for a GUARANTEED one-category upgrade (you receive this voucher after your first paid stay)
  • free breakfast for two people
  • free wi-fi, where charged
  • priority for upgrades, early check-in and late check-out

For clarity, bookings must be made via the Leading Hotels of the World website to receive the benefits above. Bookings made directly with the hotel do not count.

free membership leading hotels world leaders club

High spenders can upgrade to Leaders Club Sterling

Spend $5,000 with Leading Hotels of the World in a membership year and you are upgraded to Leaders Club Sterling.

The key benefit of Sterling is five pre-arrival upgrades.

You also receive an annual bonus of 5% of the points you earned during the year.

Leaders Club also has a points scheme

You also earn points alongside your Leaders Club benefits. It is very simple scheme – you earn 1 point per $1 spent.

You can earn on up to three rooms per stay. As promotion to the Sterling tier is based on spending, I think that these three rooms would all count towards status, although don’t quote me on that.

Free nights start at 4,000 points, so are going to need to spend $4,000 before you have enough points to stay at even the cheapest property.

Is it worth joining Leaders Club for free?

In general, I did not recommend paying $175 for Leaders Club when it charged a fee.

Whilst you would be in profit after a couple of stays, you can usually get the same benefits via other routes.

American Express Platinum cardholders can access Fine Hotels & Resorts, for example. I wrote more about Fine Hotels & Resorts here. FHR gets you:

  • noon check-in when available (admittedly worthless)
  • room upgrade on arrival when available (not worth much)
  • free breakfast for two people (continental at a minimum but usually full in my experience)
  • GUARANTEED 4pm check-out (very valuable)
  • an additional benefit, usual $100 of food and beverage credit per stay
  • free wi-fi 

As you can see, Fine Hotels & Resorts gets you better benefits than Leaders Club (assuming that the same hotel is in both programmes and the rate is the same) and FHR is free if you have American Express Platinum.

If you don’t have Platinum, our luxury hotel booking partner Emyr Thomas can get you similar benefits at hotels which are part of the Virtuoso booking consortium. You don’t need any membership or premium credit card to use Emyr – just fill in this form.

Don’t forget the current American Express cashback offer

American Express is currently running a cashback offer with Leading Hotels of the World which would double up with Leaders Club benefits.

If targetted, you will receive £100 cashback on a £350+ stay at a participating Leading Hotels of the World property for stays up to 31st August 15th October, as it has now been extended.

Selected hotels across Europe are included with nine in the UK. The only one outside London is Gleneagles, which we reviewed here (summary: it’s great).

Free is free

If you use, or have used, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, or booked via Emyr, you will find Leading Hotels of the World Leaders Club membership an additional string to your bow.

I doubt you’ll get $175 of value over the next year, but then you are no longer paying $175 to join.

For clarity, if you are not the sort of person who spends £200+ on a hotel room on a regular basis, it probably isn’t worth it – even for free. You are just opening up your inbox to a year of email about hotels you would never pay for, even with free breakfast, a member discount and a potential upgrade.

You can sign up on the LHW website here.

PS. Emyr dropped me a note to say that, for Leaders Club members, he can still process bookings due to a partnership he has with LHW. Depending on the hotel and the relationship Emyr has with the team there, this can lead to additional benefits on top of the standard Leaders Club ones. You will pay the same as the standard Leaders Club member rate.

You may want to use Emyr if, for example, you have specific requests (connecting rooms, specific floor or hotel wing) which only the personal touch can guarantee. You can contact Emyr via this form.

Hotel offers update – April 2024:

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Want to buy hotel points?

  • Hilton Honors is offering a 100% bonus when you buy points by 14th May 2024. Click here.

Comments (7)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Nick Woodward says:

    With your partnership with Emyr, joining is a no-brainer, and I have, swiftly and easily, just joined

    • HBommie says:

      Emyr is independent of LHW?

      Although I agree, no brainer.

  • Rob says:

    Thanks, hadn’t spotted that.

  • Ben Clark says:

    You still get the 500 points for completing your profile

  • Barry says:

    500 points still working but for Pre-arrival upgrade Policy – You must complete a paid stay as a Leaders Club member to qualify to receive your first pre-arrival upgrade

  • Barry says:

    It’s not 100% clear but seems like you must pay for the room up front and not on arrival/departure. So you can’t use hotel vouchers or cash

  • Ed says:

    Hi – there’s also The Grove in Hertfordshire which is participating in the offer. One to add to the list for outside London. We’ve always enjoyed it there.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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